November 2016 - RUNNING & WALKING
Relax and Run these Holiday Races
By Laura Clark
After November’s Turkey Trots many runners wisely use the frenetic holiday season to give their achy bodies a well-deserved break, a hiatus which can be sabotaged by tempting December goodies. So this year why not counteract temptation by chilling out at some laid-back seasonal events? December is a transitional month: from daylight to darkness, from frost to snow, and from serious competition to relaxed fun. You don’t have to be in your best shape ever; you just need to get out there and do it!
Reindeer are just warming up for their strenuous midnight run, so the Adirondack Runners’ 4-Mile Reindeer Run & Jr. Reindeer Run offers an opportunity to run with the reindeer before they are in full flight mode. Launching from the SUNY Adirondack campus in Queensbury on Sunday, Dec. 4, it uses the same great four-mile course as last year, appropriate for reindeer-in-training and those who have had their fall fill of speedy 5Ks.
According to race director, Lance Decker, the big hill at the start in 2014 is now a downhill. “The first two miles are fairly flat; the next 1.25 miles register a slight uphill grade with only 50 feet of elevation climb.” Stretch your legs on the downhill to the finish and claim your long-sleeved reindeer tee, perfect for holiday relaxing. In a thoughtful concession to Old St. Nick, five-year age groups run all the way through 79 and then march onward to 80+. The Jr. Reindeer Run kids’ fun one-miler follows the race. (adirondackrunners.org)
Making a smooth transition from his Run Off That Turkey 5K to the 20th annual Holiday Classic 5K on Saturday, Dec. 17, Phil Carducci confirms that November turkeys can morph into December snowmen. The first 125 pre-registered runners receive customized running gloves to encourage future winter forays and, like the Reindeer Run, age groups stretch into infinity. Additionally, 70+ entrants are honored with a discounted pre-registration fee!
There is even a walking division with the top five male and female combined receiving awards. The course is an out and back route from the Columbia Greene Community College. After you crest the steep hill in the first half-mile you can begin your celebration as the course levels out. Participants are encouraged to bring an unexpired dry good for those less fortunate. (zippyreg.com)
First Night 5Ks complement the laid back holiday atmosphere, and at the same time, they balance on the edge of January makeovers. Their moonglow start challenges our runner’s up-and-at-‘em mentality, removing us from our comfort zone. Potential street hazards are blotted out and the imagination is given free rein. The atmosphere is magical with glittery snow and frosty breath.
The staple event is the 19th annual First Night Saratoga 5K on Saturday, Dec. 31 – New Year’s Eve – in Saratoga Springs. The course circles rolling hills of the Skidmore College campus, continues onto Greenfield Avenue, and climbs gradually up North Broadway, back to the campus for a fast finish. It is well-lit with supplementary portable lighting and the Skidmore staff do an excellent job of clearing ice and snow. All runners receive a cotton long-sleeve shirt for after race comfort, and there’s a fun indoor gathering for the awards and goodies post-race.
This popular event is limited to 1,500 runners and walkers, and will sell out in advance so register early. Registration online with no additional fees or download and application. And while you’re online, take advantage of one of the evening’s best bargains: First Night buttons can be ordered at a $5 savings per button. After the race, shower at the complex, don your souvenir long-sleeved tee sporting the First Night logo, and head out for a night on the town. Logistics are even easier this year with a free shuttle running to and from Congress Park. (saratoga-arts.org)
Reflecting the somewhat serious side of the year’s turning point is Bethlehem’s first annual Resolution Run 5K, also on Saturday, Dec. 13. The race name shifts our focus toward our New Year’s fitness pledges. Another Turkey Trot offspring, this event is directed by John Guastella and his family who also bring us the Our Towne Turkey Trot 5K. Could it be that January diets and gym memberships will spawn the second most popular day in United States racing activity? One thing is for sure, John’s extended family will now know where they will be every Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve!
The route is a double out-and-back along Bethlehem’s section of the Albany County Rail Trail. The doubling not only gives you the opportunity to cheer for your friends, but also insures that John and his plow can readily clear the way in case of snow. Headlamps and glow sticks are encouraged as there is no lighting along the trail. For me, the best part of any zero dark thirty ultra trail race is experiencing glowing light streamers illuminating the path like so many fireflies. And this time you don’t even have to run long! The tone is casual, suited to ease the way into a resolution-filled New Year’s, with a race clock display for self-timing purposes only.
Afterwards, enjoy the fireworks that herald the start of Bethlehem’s initial foray into First Night productions. And tired runners can rest secure in the knowledge that festivities end at 10pm, allowing a reasonable bedtime, and an opportunity to tackle HMRRC’s Hangover Half without a hangover! (eventbrite.com)
According to race director Jon Rocco, “…many like to end the year with a First Night race and start the year off with a race.” HMRRC’s 41st annual Hangover Half-Marathon & Bill Hogan 3.5-Mile Run/Walk both offer a forgiving opportunity on Sunday, Jan. 1, with a noon start for those who really need to sleep in. Circling around the familiar University at Albany campus venue is filled with an encouraging throng of volunteers. The series is free to HMRRC members and $5 for everyone else.
This race and the Winter Series are also a good test of determination and willpower as sign up is day-of race only, so you have to be truly motivated to throw off the covers – a dress rehearsal for all those before-work early morning training runs. Last year there were a total of 600 finishers, with 303 in the 13.1-miler and 266 in the 3.5-mile, so you can be assured of plenty of company. (hmrrc.com)
Let “Don’t hibernate, recreate” be your motto!
Laura Clark (email@example.com) of Saratoga Springs is an avid trail runner, ultramarathoner, snowshoer and cross-country skier. She is a children’s librarian at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.